Sri Lanka: Promoting Reconciliation and Hope to Young People

The memories of the long civil war in Sri Lanka and the bitter inter-ethnic acrimony is still afresh in many Sri Lankan's minds. That is why reconciliation is now the much discussed buzzword across Sri Lanka.

The recently released Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation (LLRC Report) has discussed details on the issues concerning post-conflict reconciliation. But the challenges are many as Selyna Peiris at Sri Lankan reconciliation youth forum describes:

Recently, I attended a panel discussion organised by the Consortium of Human Rights Agencies (CHA) to listen to Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, the Advisor to the President on Reconciliation present a critical assessment of the ongoing initiatives, mostly by the Government, for reconciliation in Sri Lanka. [..] Apart from the fact that visually the panel truly represented the political divisions in Sri Lanka at present, their opinions also brought to light the diverse attitudes toward reconciliation in the Sri Lankan context. It was clear that to work towards a reconciled Sri Lanka, the different fractions in our community needed to be able to agree on what reconciliation actually meant in our country. It was also clear that a definition that encompasses the diversity of our community needed much compromise and commitment.

Selyna also opined that Sri Lankans should take the responsibility in their own hands instead of waiting for ages.

Last October Global Voices highlighted the works of Sri Lanka Unites, a group that connects young Sri Lankans and gives them a free space to make reconciliation work. The organisation's aim is to visit schools and build a network of over 4500 student leaders from every district and community in Sri Lanka and organize several events like the Future Leaders Conference.

Sri Lanka Unites had started their school relation road trip last October and has been posting updates about the trip in their blog (also in Tamil and Sinhala language). The stories of students making friends from other parts of the country are being posted in social media channels like YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.

The epic road trip around the country ended in Puttalam promoting hope & reconciliation to more than 50,000 students. Here are a few Twitter entries describing more events and milestones:

@SriLankaUnites: Today in Matara a SLU forum for youth to plan and implement post war reconciliation, integration, restorative justice and nation building.

@SriLankaUnites: The biggest challenge there is for FLC (Future Leaders Conference) 4 is providing transport to the students, discussing the possible options #lka

Indrajit Samarajiva writes at

I really support SLU cause they do real work on the ground. A lot of people talk about building shared spaces or reconciliation, but few actually physically gather young people to make it happen. Many people talk about the conditions for reconciliation, or why reconciliation can’t happen, or what’s going wrong, which doesn’t make anything happen. SLU actually just gets it done, and for this they get some criticism.

Image courtesy Sri Lanka Unites

Selyna Peiris highlights Sri Lanka Unite's activities and what it can achieve:

There have been examples of clubs in Kurunegala partnering with schools in Jaffna and conducting health camps for the Jaffna community on their own initiative. What is absolutely beautiful about this experience is that despite the difficulties in communication, the purity of the hugs and smiles between the students when they meet is a true symbol of the possibility of an everlasting peace. Furthermore, students who have graduated into universities have taken the initiative to start the SLU university chapters and several Diaspora communities have also started SLU chapters in their respective countries and cities abroad. A happy virus – young people who are willing to and capable of leading their communities are coming together in one united platform. Most importantly, through them, the idea of a united Sri Lanka without violence and difference is spreading across the Island and beyond.


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